Carolyn Rice is going on almost four years since first having a pacemaker implanted in her body, and she says it's made all the difference in the world.
"I didn't seem to have any energy. It was hard to get about and do my work and it was hard to breathe," Rice says.
In 2003, doctors diagnosed Carolyn with atrial fibrillation and recommended the pacemaker to stabilize her heart rate.
"I come twice a year here to the clinic to have it checked and then it's done by phone at home," Rice says.
Dr. Eleanor Kennedy says regular monitoring of pacemakers is important, and they use a programming device to keep an eye on their patients.
"That programming device works essentially like your TV remote control. So, we do what's called an interrogation and the device tells us all about what types of rhythms it has seen, what type of activity the patient has had, and whether the patient's lungs are congested," Dr. Kennedy says.
The report also lets cardiologists know that status of the battery and the leads, to ensure they are functioning correctly and do not need to be replaced.
"Some patients require the pacemaker to activate each heartbeat," says Dr. Kennedy. "For other patients, the pacemaker is just there on standby should the heart rate drop on it's own. So, you can imagine someone who requires the pacemaker to stimulate each heartbeat, the battery doesn't last as long as for someone who's pacemaker is just there in backup mode."
And if all looks good, as in Carolyn's case, the patient can be in and out the door in about 15-20 minutes.
"I don't think anyone should be that concerned in having it because to have the pacemaker placed wasn't that complicated and certainly to have it checked is not for the results you get," says Rice.
Once or twice a year, patients must visit the cardiologist's office in order to make sure the device is working properly. In between visits, check-ups can be done over the phone.